In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, TBS
As we’re heading towards summer and old shows have started to finish but new shows have yet to start, I decided to use some of the free time that’s given me to play a little bit of catch-up with some of the shows I missed for one reason or another.
Your Family Or Mine is one such show. That began all of five weeks ago while I was away on my Easter break and compounded with the fact it airs on TBS – a network whose motto should probably be “what do you mean you’d forgotten about us? But we’ve got shows like… and… Oh. Take your point” – it’s basically slipped under my radar until now.
Which is odd, because on paper it’s an interesting show. For starters, it’s not only got Ed Begley Jr in the cast, it’s got Richard Dreyfus in his first series regular role since 2001’s The Education of Max Bickford. On top of that, it’s been adapted by Greg Malins (Friends, Ground Floor) from the Israeli show Sabri Maranan.
To make things even more interesting, despite essentially being a multi-cam, low budget, less diverse Modern Family, it’s got an unusual format. The show revolves around married couple Kyle Howard (My Boys) and Kat Foster (’Til Death, The Goodwin Games), whose lives in turn revolve around visiting each other’s families – Dreyfus is Howard’s father, Begley Jr is Foster’s. The unusual thing here is that the show takes it in turns – rather than giving us separate plots involving both families each episode, all the odd-numbered episodes are set exclusively at Dreyfus’s snooty/crass, brother-full household, while all the even-numbered episodes are set at Begley Jr’s touchy-feely, sister-full household. It even has different title sequences for the different weeks.
So, on paper, fine and possibly even interesting. The trouble is that in practice it’s just dreadful, which is why I only bothered with the first two episodes, despite five having now aired. Even that was too much.
For starters, the jokes veer between unfunny and just downright awful, and the unifying theme of the Howard family is “they’re epic dicks”. Much of the first episode is about Howard remotely spying on his new babysitter using a nannycam, which eventually fascinates the whole family as her friend turns up and they start talking about boys. The women, of course (!), want to know what happens about the babysitter’s boyfriend problems and whether her relationships survive; the men, of course (!), wonder if the college girls really ‘will go wild’ when a friend drops by – just as the porn movie they’ve apparently all watched would suggest.
This gives us a vivid scene of the 68-year old Dreyfus feverishly hoping that the teenagers in question will end up scissoring each other, preferably in the shower, right before his eyes. Try to burn that image from your mind, if you can.
On top of that, we have Howard’s younger brother illicitly setting up parties for those very same teenagers in Howard’s house and illegally selling Viagra, Howard’s doctor brother not caring – or even knowing – that his wife has been studying for a psychology degree for six months, and Howard’s mother (JoBeth Williams), who hates both her daughters-in-law, trying to get her to use her psychology training to prove Foster is an unfit mother.
You can pretty much see the odd-numbered episodes are not just an affront to comedy and human decency, but borderline paedophilia mixed with sociopathy.
The even-numbered episodes aren’t much better. While Dreyfus and his wife (Cynthia Stevenson) are at least quite a pleasing and loving couple, the two themes here is they all think Howard’s a dick who’ll mess everything up and all the girls are idiots. Much ‘hilarity’ ensues as Howard accidentally accuses one sister of dressing like a stripper, the other of having no fashion sense.
So skip the even-numbered episodes, too.
There’s not even much to ameliorate the situation more generally. Both Howard and Foster have inherently dull characters to play and they’re the show’s lynchpins. Filmed in front of a studio audience – I’m assuming not a live one, though, or at least if they were when they started watching, they weren’t by the end, almost certainly having improvised rudimentary suicide tools from their clothing and seating – the show doesn’t really lend itself to subtle performances, either. And even beside the jokes, the episodes’ plots are obvious and easy to guess – if you can’t spot what the revelation will be about the picture in the first episode, there really is no hope for you.
Not only then must we clock this up as yet another of TBS’s recent comedy disasters (10 Items Or Less, Men At Work, Are We There Yet?, Glory Daze), but also another Israeli comedy format import disaster (cf The Ex-List, Traffic Light). Perhaps not only should US networks stop trying to make what’s funny in another culturally different country funny in their own countries, but also TBS should get out of the comedy game altogether…